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Cratylus – Plato
portion of the human voice which men agree to use;
but that there is a truth or correctness in them, which
is the same for Hellenes as for barbarians. Whereupon I
ask him, whether his own name of Cratylus is a true
name or not, and he answers ‘Yes.’ And Socrates? ‘Yes.’
Then every man’s name, as I tell him, is that which he
is called. To this he replies—’If all the world were to
call you Hermogenes, that would not be your name.’
And when I am anxious to have a further explanation
he is ironical and mysterious, and seems to imply that
he has a notion of his own about the matter, if he would
only tell, and could entirely convince me, if he chose to
be intelligible. Tell me, Socrates, what this oracle means;
or rather tell me, if you will be so good, what is your
own view of the truth or correctness of names, which I
would far sooner hear.
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Socrates, Hermogenes,
HERMOGENES: Suppose that we make Socrates a party
to the argument?
CRATYLUS: If you please.
HERMOGENES: I should explain to you, Socrates, that
our friend Cratylus has been arguing about names; he
says that they are natural and not conventional; not a
SOCRATES: Son of Hipponicus, there is an ancient say-
ing, that ‘hard is the knowledge of the good.’ And the
knowledge of names is a great part of knowledge. If I
had not been poor, I might have heard the fifty-drachma